Thursday, January 26, 2012

I believe in the bucket

(Addressing the porcelain goddess.  Do you sometimes feel like this guy looks?)

Vomiting is not one of my favorite activities.  I'd rather spend my time doing something more constructive than emptying my stomach via my mouth.  But there are times when your body can not be deterred.  When my brothers and I were ill as kids, we would commonly lie in the living room on the couch and watch tv until the disease passed.  My mother always put a bucket next to the couch in case we had to barf.  This was not exactly the same as "praying to the porcelain princess", but it was effective.  Many a messy cleanup was avoided because of this vomitus catchment that was strategically placed within hurling distance.

The first time I was ill with nausea after I was married, I called to my wife to bring the bucket.  My wife did not grow up with this bucket thing in her home, and so she laughed hysterically at me for thinking I could not make it to the bathroom when the time was ripe.  I pleaded, but to no avail.  Some Emergency Room RNs (which my wife was at that time) have little empathy for those of us with sensitive stomachs.  If it's not a heart attack or an amputated limb, get over it!

Then, in the summer of 1969 when I was stationed with the army in Baltimore, my mother and her good friend Rose came to visit us in our small apartment for a few days.  We decided to drive to D.C. to see the sights and to have lunch.  I can't for the life of me remember what it was we ate, but on the hour drive back to Baltimore my mother and I got violently ill.  Obviously this was food poisoning, although my wife ate what I had and Rose ate what my mother had and neither of them got sick.

The Baltimore-Washington Parkway was a busy highway that day, as usual, and there was no easy place to stop or pull over.  My mother was in the back seat with Rose and I was in the front while my wife drove.  My mother and I both felt as though we were going to heave any minute.  What to do?  What to do?  Then, my mother discovered some old newspapers in the back seat.  In what was a more creative move than making an origami stork, and far more practical, my mother quickly rolled up some newspaper into a very tight cone with no hole at the bottom.  She made two of them, and passed one to me in the front.  For the rest of the trip home, my mother and I held this ridiculous 18-inch long funnel of newspaper in front of our faces with our chins perched on the edge of our respective cones, and braced for what we thought was the inevitable.  My wife, the empathetic nurse, and Rose were laughing so hard that Management almost drove the car off the highway twice, as mother and son buried their faces in yesterday's sports page.

We finally managed to pull up in  front of our apartment located in a rather large complex, having held the problem internally for what seemed like hours.  My mother rushed inside to lie down on our bed, and immediately called for the bucket, but I couldn't make it.  I held on to a small tree in the yard and began heaving violently, all the while making a roar loud enough to cause the starlings in the tree above me to drop to the ground as if dead.  Neighbors began looking out of their windows on all sides, assuming that the drunken soldier was now paying the price for a well-lubricated lunch.  I had no energy to explain, and all I could think to do was to put as much distance between me and that little tree as possible.  In hindsight, it was a good thing I stayed outside to "pull the trigger", because we only had one bucket in those days, and that one was now assigned to my mother.

People have different thresholds that need crossing before they "liquidate their assets", but my advice is simple.  Lie down flat on a bed or couch when you are really nauseous, avoid watching the Republican presidential debates, and have lots of buckets on hand.  This strategy should get you through.

(For an extensive list of vomit names, go here.)